Movie Review: The Shape of Water

[The Shape of Water has been nominated in 13 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing.]

The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro, and starring heavyweights like Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, and Octavia Spencer is a dark film. There’s no two ways about it. It shows us our reality, our tendency to hate everything that doesn’t conform to our thoughts and everything we have known so far. Yet, within this darkness lies hope for humanity.

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a nighttime janitor at a government laboratory along with one of her two friends, Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer). Her other friend, Giles (Richard Jenkins) is her neighbor and both look after each other. Elisa is mute and communicates through sign language. She is an orphan, found on a riverbank with three long cut-like scars on either side of her neck.

Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) is responsible for the vivisection of a humanoid amphibian from South America, after General Frank Hoyt’s (Nick Searcy) orders. As a janitor, Elisa discovers this creature and slowly, gradually befriends it, learning in the process the creature’s intelligence. What follows is whether or not Elisa is able to protect her new friend from what the government has in store for him.

When The Shape of Water got 13 Oscar nods, I initially couldn’t understand how such a weird story could be getting all the attention. There is water, there is darkness, and there is a weird creature floating in the water while embracing a woman. That was what I took away from the poster.

But watch The Shape of Water and you’ll know why it’s the talk of every movie-watching town. Every nomination is an assurance that all is well with the world. Sally Hawkins personifies strength and grace in her role as Elisa. Octavia Spencer is brilliant as Zelda, be it the wit or the emotions. Richard Jenkins is impactful as the scared but will-do-anything-for-Elisa artist. And Michael Shannon is simply terrifying as the anti-hero.

The Shape of Water is a dark, realistic fairytale of sorts. Like all fairytales tell of miracles and give us lessons to learn, this movie too, has a relevant lesson for today’s time and age. This lesson is one of acceptance and generosity in contrast with the truth of who today’s monsters really are. While we deem someone else as a monster, many-a-times, it is us who are the real ones.

Every element in the movie gets its due recognition. Every actor gets his/her spot in the limelight. The sets are absolutely magical in their 1960-ishness. The humor is sometimes dark, but relevant nevertheless, most of it being doled out in chunks by Zelda. There is no way you cannot fall in love with her.

Every visual in the film is stunning. As the title goes, clever usage of water and light brings to the movie a brightness that you’d most probably not even see anywhere else. What I’m saying now defies what I said earlier about The Shape of Water and darkness. But watch the film and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.

Of course, it will take some time for you to get used to the notion that the movie is talking about. But the beauty with which it is put forth will make sure that that time is not too late in the movie.

All in all, a brilliant movie with a brilliant message! What a job Guillermo del Toro has done! And every bit as Oscar-worthy as it is now. 🙂

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: thefilmexperience.net.

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